Pope Joan
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This book remains one of my favorite reads. It’s smart, controversial, and interesting with writing that is descriptive enough to get the point across but not too flowery or pedantic. It’s historical fiction by an author who traditionally writes non-fiction, so she did her homework and was true to the period. The Dark Ages is a fascinating era to explore and this book illuminated that time period for me. I was astounded and amazed by the heroine and her relentless fight for light, truth, and knowledge. Wolfolk Cross kept me engaged from the beginning to the end making a far distant time period feel extremely current and relevant while keeping the subject matter honest but never offensive. It is a great book for men and women alike and would be a fantastic book club discussion. Don’t forget to read the notes at the end of the book…they will keep you thinking.
Amazon.com summary:
For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Now in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept. 

Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak–and his identity–and enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar and healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom–wielding a power greater than any woman before or since. But such power always comes at a price . . . 

In this international bestseller, Cross brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of a woman whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day